And Justice For All?

Debunking the myth of lawsuit abuse.

And Justice For All?

Any individual who has firsthand experience with the court system will tell you how costly and time-consuming it is to bring a lawsuit, and how difficult it is for the average American to get justice in court, especially if the defendant is a deep pocketed corporation. Yet, a disconcertingly large percentage of the public—influenced by fictional or highly misleading “frivolous lawsuit” stories and the occasional eye-popping verdict—believes the U.S. is in the midst of a litigation crisis.

Any American who thinks they support tort reform ought to read Stephanie Mencimer’s “Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and its Corporate Allies are Taking Away Your Right to Sue” (Free Press), a powerful new book which demonstrates how self-interested corporations and “lawsuit abuse” groups have convinced millions of citizens that it’s too easy to sue. Why has their stealth campaign been so successful? Failure interviewed Mencimer to find out.

What is the definition of tort reform?
It depends on whom you ask. If you ask a trial lawyer he or she will say it’s a movement to tilt the playing field in the courts towards the defense so that big companies are more insulated from lawsuits by individual consumers. If you talk to people in the corporate world they say that tort reform is a movement to bring fairness and predictability to a legal system that they consider nothing short of a form of legalized extortion.

Are we in the midst of a litigation crisis?
No. The kinds of lawsuits that the tort reformers care about are what you’d call personal injury cases or toxic torts. They make up a very small percentage of the legal docket—maybe 10 percent total. And the number of those lawsuits has been declining for at least a decade.

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